On building up trust and getting people to open up

The Cement City

The Home Space project is based on a 20 year research on how the suburbs and land around Maputo is changing. The cement city aka Maputo city centre is like a fungus growing at the expense of the land around it. The suburbs around the city are mainly self-built dwellings, first out of bamboo now slowly being replaced by cement blocks and corrugated iron. At a time when land had no value, plots were given to poor people mainly dislocated during the war, to cultivate. Over the years families grew and so did poverty and plots got divided and sold off, often sacrificing the allotments where women grew the household food.

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João Moreira Salles talks about ‘Santiago’ – part IV

Santiago and Memory

The film is very close to that sensation of celebrating nostalgia, which I think of as being the conservative idea that the past is better than the present, and that one needs to recover the past, which is impossible, so all that’s left is sadness and melancholy of the time that went past and the feeling you can’t invest in the present.
From that you get the happiness of the past too. Nostalgia is necessarily melancholic and conservative. The past is better than the present and therefore, sometimes, better than the future… And I didn’t want to convey that in the film.

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On working with foreign language

Do we need to understand every word to shoot a sequence?

Mama Teresa was my favourite right from the beginning. She spoke a few Portuguese words but went on speaking to me in Changana, her local language. The energy she gave out seemed to allow me to understand what she was communicating. I have used translators in past situations but although we gain information through the translation, I often feel very frustrated because the attention, focus, keeps slipping from the character to the translator and part of me stops feeling the person that I’m filming. So I  took the decision not to work with a translator and allow me to go with the feel of her and allow her to just talk to me, whenever she wants, knowing that I did not understand her. No  doubt I will discover crucial details during editing and probably get kicked by my editor for not having followed some of the leads. But I ask myself:  do we need to understand every word to shoot a sequence? Can’t we sometimes just work on the feel of it?

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João Moreira Salles talks about ‘Santiago’ – part III

Santiago’s freedom and the concept behind the film

This excerpt follows Noe Mendelle’s remark on this scene. She asked João if he thinks this was the only moment of the film where Santiago exercised his freedom.

Santiago told me once: ‘I find my hands very beautiful and I remember making these gestures as a child, like an exercise, whilst listening to Bach.’

And he asked me to do that in the film. So you’re right when you say that maybe that is one of the only moments in the film in which he’s exercising his freedom. To be able to do what he wanted to and be proud of it to the point he wanted it to be filmed. And he’s absolutely free and happy doing it, because it’s important for him and it’s beautiful.

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On filmmaker's participation

Mozambique

A bank banner advertising a credit scheme in Maputo: ‘We will help you redecorate your home, invest in education, go on holiday and look after your health.’

Mozambique is a socialist country but with a privatised infrastructure, such as most education, electricity, water, transport etc… all except the land. So technically people get offered a plot of land but do not own it! The power of banks is only starting, as most people are self employed or do not earn enough to be paid through banks, unless you work for the government. Anything they save, they invest in developing their house: a few more cement blocks or cement bags or corrugated iron… With the privatisation of water, most people have a tap in their yard but many cannot afford it, so children and women will walk to a selling point and buy one jerry can at a time for 20 medicais (50 pence). The electricity is re-bought. They go to petrol stations or kiosks and have a primitive system of “pay as you go.”

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Tacita Dean at TATE MODERN…

…with ‘FILM’ – a campaign for film.

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Wild at Heart: DokLeipzig 2011

Wild at Heart – An Experiment in Courage was an intriguing title for a novel industry event hosted by DokLeipzig this year. The intention with this invite-only event was to inject new life into industry conversations, which as festival events go, often end up in panels where we exchange information, but less frequently meaningful conversations of what actually underpins our passion for documentary, and reasons for doing what we’re doing.

The morning consisted of three rounds of 30mins, spread over 10 tables of 8, with a table host each, and three questions designed to get deeper into the heart of courage within documentary. We were told to write on the table cloths. Ilo von Seckendorff, one of the organisers, told me that it took a long time to find the right questions for this event. There were no right or wrong answers expected of us (although it was easy to fall into that mode of thinking), and participants were supposed to drop their roles as commissioners, producers, filmmakers etc and just be present as a person, contributing from the heart.

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'Under the Surface' by David R Cairns

The film is about a series of suicides by young men in Dundee, during summer 2010 and how their families coped with such tragedy. 

David R Cairns, the director, straight out of NFTVS, poured all his energy and sensitivity into listening to those families, absorbing their pain, and finding ways to translate it poetically so the film will walk the fine line of telling the harsh facts of reality, living in economically deprived Dundee while respecting their individual stories with enough feelings to go beyond the social worker case study, all this in 9 minutes!

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João Moreira Salles talks about ‘Santiago’ – part II

The film became possible when I realised that these off screen moments were essential for the film

13 years later, when I got back to the edit suite I asked for the transcripts, but these only had information about the actual shots. There wasn’t a single sentence about what came before or after, so I had no information on all the off-screen conversations that took place. I started looking at what came before and after the planned shots and realised that what explained the artificiality in the film was outside of these shots. And the film became possible when I realised that these off screen moments were essential for the film. The off screen that I didn’t control or what I thought I didn’t need to control. And those were my conversations with him, that in the end were the things that weren’t the object of my obsession with control, of the obsession with the aesthetics…

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On filming in Maputo, Mozambique

I rented a room in the centre of town as public transport tends to be reduced to “chapas” – little mini buses which are always so full that you have young men’s bums sticking out of the windows and they have this tendency to break down, making any journey a challenge to time and patience…

Maputo's suburbia from the planeFirst morning, after a night of heavy rain, I woke up to the croaking of frogs and a city landscape transformed into lakes of murky waters and floating rubbish. I’d never thought of packing my Wellington boots. My project is about the way the city of Maputo has dramatically expanded over the last few years, creating a large suburb of what appears to be endless slums. For the first few days it was extremely difficult to access the families I was going to work with, as the lanes were transformed into a slalom of mud. As days passed by I grew more anxious, having only 3 weeks to research and film this project. But the sun returned and I was able to get on with the next challenge, getting to know my families, and start filming.

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I AM BREATHING
FUTURE MY LOVE
PABLO'S WINTER
STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS

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